I was fortunate enough to attend the MPI (Meeting Professionals International) World Education Congress (WEC) in Las Vegas in late June. I say fortunate because there were some great educational opportunities designed for the experienced event professional as well as some amazing examples of the ideas put into practice.
The theme for this year’s WEC was stop planning meetings—start designing experiences. True to the theme, MPI didn’t play it safe and offer the tired old educational offerings. They started with an opening general session on Monday evening where MPI president and CEO Paul Van Deventer quoted Neil Gaiman, saying MPI was embracing his philosophy of “now go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes… Leave the world more interesting for you being here.” MPI made a few mistakes at this WEC including an overly ambitious opening session that saw some of the audience leave before the end, but overall the efforts to introduce new practices that would lead to unique experiences were refreshing.
The branding at this event was amazing—window clings visually set the theme in the hallways leading to the MGM Convention Centre. Signage, badges, the MPI Foundation Booth and the Exchange Floor were all designed to visually enhance the experience. Michael Cerbelli’s visually-stunning “The Hot List” presentation was accompanied by a glossy handout that included the contact information for every supplier he highlighted. The meal room setups were also unusual including a mix of intimate seating for tables of four up to large tables of eight or 10. Video screens were well used throughout.
Of course, if you want to design experiences there is probably no better city than Las Vegas. The Strip is unique and many properties had signs welcoming MPI to town. The MGM Grand, New York New York, Encore, Brooklyn Bowl and Caesar’s Palace all presented venues with amazing decor and entertainment.
Although the experience was certainly heightened by the destination, the education that I attended was also very impressive. I was inspired by the Master Class Deep Dive session into design principles by Bruce Mau. It was a three-hour session that was over too quickly and I can’t wait to receive the summary materials that are going to be sent to the attendees. I also found the behind the scenes session presented by Freeman to be a great learning experience, especially as the tech crew was simultaneously discussing all of the technical changes that had to occur because of Magic Johnson’s cancellation.
This WEC made me think of experiences and branding. In a crowded marketplace, potential clients will choose you over your competitors by their sense of comfort working with you. Do you provide direction and advice or are you just an order taker? What is the experience of your clients and partners? If they find that you are difficult to work with, hard to reach, and not collaborative, why should they stay with you? Make sure your brand creates the experiences you want your clients to have.
– Les Selby is the director of Meetings & Events for One10 Canada. He has been a corporate, independent, and third party event professional for over 27 years. Les has earned both his Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation and his Global Certification in Meeting Management (CMM). Inducted into Meeting + Incentive Travel Magazine’s Industry Hall of Fame in 2009, he is an active member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI). He served on the Toronto chapter’s Board, was the 2000-2001 chapter president, and is currently a member of the MPI Foundation Canadian Council. In 1997, Les was recognized as Planner of the Year by the MPI Toronto chapter, and received the President’s Award for 2009. He can be reached at email@example.com